We keep hearing that as adults we are nowhere as creative as when we were children and, what's worse, that the older we get the less creative we become. My point, however, is not to discuss the broad topic of 'creativity' and whether formal education system diminishes it or not. What I want to share with you is my impressions from one project, a small-scale experiment, that I carried out in St. Vincent island which involved creativity.
Although I am not a writer (I prefer to describe the world using images) I hope you will find this piece to read interesting.
This idea was born in my head even before I had come to St. Vincent and it was based on the following circumstances:
No 1. I had a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera which was still in a good condition but I no longer used it.
No 2. I was curious to learn about a country that I know little about, about everyday lives of people living there through photos taken by them.
I thought including non-formal education photography activities into formal education could work well. Therefore, I introduced the idea to Ms Richards, the principal of a primary school in Fitz Hughes village, and after receiving her 'yes', I would come to school every week or two weeks to have photography lessons with 6th grade students (11 y.o.). Between late December 2017 and March 2018 I would meet with them around 8 times. Over the course of the project 13 students (Kayann-Jay, Swer, Kenran, Shamorra, Shakime, Akeela, Tamika, Oran, Glenson, Malique, Aison, Mary and Kishron ) attended theory lessons and practical exercises, which helped them feel more confident about working with a semi-professional camera.
By participating in lessons they were able to learn the basics of photography (composition, light, the rule of thirds...), learn about different camera settings as well as they were encouraged to spend their free time in a creative way. After a few lessons, once the excitement of playing with a new toy subsided, we made a list according to which each student was assigned a day and was able to take the camera home with them on this given day.
Things went fairly smoothly. Kids co-operated well and camera was being passed from hands to hands according to the list, with some rather funny issues such as some students keeping the camera for longer than we agreed and other students telling on them the very moment I would show up in school ("Miss, miss, Kishron kept the camera for 5 days!" – he was supposed to keep it for a day or two). Another funny moment that I recall was when almost at the end of the project, right before I was going to print the 14 selected photos and after I would mention virtually each time during previous lessons that the print-outs will be shown at the final exhibition, one boy (rather shy), came up to me and quietly asked: "Miss, what is an exhibition?".
I must admit each time I went to school to check on the project and to collect the latest pictures, I would feel truly excited to see which scenes from their everyday lives my Vincy students managed to capture with the camera. They did surprise me a couple of times and I could see some having strong interest in a particular type of photography, such as macro or portraits.
After all lessons and after each student was able to keep the camera for long enough to take photos, there were 14 best pictures selected out of all, one from every student (in one case 2 from the same student). The authors had to come up with captions to their own photos.
The print-outs were exhibited in Richmond Vale Academy's main hall. We organized the final event at the beginning of April 2018 and my 6th graders together with their teacher, Mr Franklin, were invited to come to the exhibition. We asked them to find on the wall their picture and to say a few words about it to staff, students and volunteers at Richmond Vale Academy. Before the final event every child could also choose one photo they took and particularly liked (not necessarily the one exhibited) which was then printed, framed and given to them as presents during the event.
At the exhibition all the children looked happy and proud, and from what some of them told me, they really enjoyed participating in the project and having their pictures printed. I hope this photo experiment left a sparkle of creativity in each of them and who knows maybe some will consider becoming a professional photographer in the future…
Malwina Sedzikowska, RVA November'17 team and EU Aid Volunteer
Thanks to RVA management (especially Else Marie) and November'17 team (especially Dani, Natalia, Tessa, Paula, Maya also Marco and Glenn) for ideas, support and making it possible.